Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vilsack Could Be Shifted to Commerce Post

President-elect Barack Obama is trying to find a replacement for New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has withdrawn his name from consideration to be Secretary of Commerce in the Obama cabinet. Richardson has been sidelined by a federal ethics probe into a $1.5 million state contract to CDR Financial Products of California. There has been some speculation that the President-elect may do some shuffling within the cabinet because of a lack of alternatives for the Secretary of Commerce. According to the New York Daily News, an anonymous source has said that former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack may be moved from the Secretary of Agriculture slot into the commerce position. Some believe there are more viable candidates to select from to head USDA.

Final Rule for COOL Signed

On Thursday before a press briefing, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer signed the final rule for mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling, which will be submitted into the Federal Register Friday. "This is not a food safety issue, this is not a competitive issue or a trade issue," Schafer said. "This is a marketing issue; this is the ability for U.S. producers to label our meats and let the consumer decide." Mandatory COOL applies to meats and produce. Modifications to COOL have been advocated by several groups during the waiting period between the interim rule and the final rule. Those modifications will be reflected when the rule is published in the Federal Register. "All in all we struck a good balance with the rules and regulations on the COOL legislation," Schafer said. "Some people wanted it to be more, some people wanted it to be less, but it is a good balance. It's something that we are real proud of finally accomplishing it since 2002 when we've been working on it."

USDA Meeting with Mexican Officials

Mexico will resume imports from 20 U.S. meat processing plants it suspended in December. According to USDA spokeswoman Laura Reiser, Mexico has accepted the corrective action plans submitted by the plants. In addition, action plans from five additional U.S. plants have been received by USDA. The agency is expected to forward those plans to the Mexican government. In the meantime, U.S. and Mexican officials will meet next Monday to discuss a Mexican proposal to ban shipment of U.S. meat products in large containers. The proposal would go into effect Jan. 15. The U.S. Meat Export federation says, under the proposal, Mexico would only allow shipments of carcasses, half carcasses and pieces when packaged in boxes or on pallets. According to USMEF Communications Director Joe Schuele there isn't a lot of justification or explanation for why Mexico wants to make this change. USDA has asked USMEF to gather information from processors ahead of Monday's meeting on what types and how much product would be affected, as well as the cost and time needed to switch from combos to other packaging alternatives. It is believed the change would impact nearly 80% of what is shipped to Mexico.

APHIS is Requiring New Cattle Facility in Mexico

The United States has done its part. Now it is up to Mexico to build a new facility near San Luis, Arizona capable of properly handling cattle being imported into the United States. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has issued a final rule that adds San Luis as a port to control the import of Mexican cattle infested or exposed to fever ticks or tick-borne diseases. Meant to protect U.S. livestock, federal regulations require that cattle from Mexico be inspected individually at APHIS-approved facilities on the Mexican side of the border. They must be certified as being free of ticks. If ticks are found, the cattle must be dipped in a solution to kill the parasites. The cattle are then quarantined for 10 to 14 days before being re-inspected. If additional ticks are found, the process must be repeated. APHIS will prohibit the import of cattle into the United States through the San Luis port until a new facility for handling livestock is constructed on the Mexican side of the border and equipped with facilities that allow proper chute inspection, dipping and testing required under APHIS regulations.

Inspector General to Investigate Soybean Checkoff

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer has responded to the petition the American Soybean Association filed on Dec. 10, 2008 asking for an investigation of the United Soybean Board and the U.S. Soybean Export Council to make sure soybean checkoff funds are being properly used. Schafer signed a memorandum recommending that the Office of the Inspector General conduct an audit and if necessary an investigation of the National Soybean Checkoff. "ASA is doing what is in the best interest of soybean farmers ethically, legally and financially," said ASA President Johnny Dodson, a soybean producer from Halls, Tenn. "Ignoring serious allegations of abuse or sweeping them under the rug would have been wrong and would have done a disservice to all soybean farmers who are paying the checkoff. Investigating and then correcting any problem areas is the right thing to do for U.S. soybean farmers. ASA hopes we will have a more responsive and accountable soybean checkoff as a result." Among the allegations that prompted ASA to petition USDA for an investigation are potential evasions of salary and administrative caps, conflicts of interest, an improper sexual relationship that disrupted the management of the Japanese foreign office, misuse of checkoff and federal funds as well as other charges....

Friday, January 09, 2009

Grijalva, Dombeck to push Obama administration for national roadless rule

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, a Democrat at one time under consideration for the secretary of the interior post being filled by Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, is joining forces with former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck to push the Obama administration for a national roadless rule. And not just any national roadless rule. According to a Pew Environment Group release Thursday, Grijalva, who serves on the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and Dombeck, head of both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) during the Clinton administration, would like to see Clinton’s 2001 roadless rule reinstated. Grijalva and Dombeck will join William Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society, on Monday for a conference call moderated by Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group. Their goal is to “call on incoming Obama administration to uphold the roadless rule, and to launch a new roadless protection campaign,” according to the release....

Loaded, concealed guns become legal in national parks

A new federal rule takes effect today, allowing people to carry loaded, concealed firearms in national parks in certain cases. The rule has drawn two lawsuits. It's backed by many gun-rights groups, as well as the Bush Administration, but is opposed by several groups representing current and former National Park Service employees.
Here are some answers to what the change means: Q: What's the new rule? A: You can carry loaded, concealed guns in a park controlled by the National Park Service or a wildlife refuge controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service if the state laws where the parks and refuges are located allow concealed firearms — which Arizona does — and you have the proper concealed weapons permit. The rule change, however, does not allow the guns to be taken into federal buildings in the national parks and refuges. A ban remains on hunting and target shooting in national parks. The new rule doesn't affect national monuments such as Ironwood Forest northwest of Tucson that are run by the Bureau of Land Management. BLM doesn't restrict firearms possession. Since 1983, the federal government had allowed in national parks guns that weren't loaded, or that were in a trunk or otherwise inaccessible while driving. Before, no firearms were allowed in national parks....

Federal draft report: Delta system imperils fish

Salmon, steelhead and sturgeon in the Central Valley are being driven to extinction by Delta pumping systems and upstream reservoir operations, according to a draft federal report. The National Marine Fisheries Service has not yet released the report, but it was discussed at a meeting of scientists in Sacramento on Thursday. The impacts are so significant that the agency is also studying whether killer whales in the ocean could be imperiled by declining Central Valley salmon, their primary prey. The grave findings suggest that California's efforts to serve thirsty farms and cities while sustaining healthy fisheries will only get more difficult. A final version of the report, called a biological opinion, is expected by March 2. The Endangered Species Act empowers the fisheries service to impose new rules on state and federal water systems to protect the fish....

Sticker Shock

California is now requiring all cars sold in the state to display a sticker listing its greenhouse gas rating. Forget about considering a car's MPG rating in deciding which one to buy. Next to it will be a new and (in some eyes) far more important sticker providing the car's GHG rating, an arbitrarily concocted measure of its greenhouse gas contribution to climate change. Assembly Bill 1228 requires a sticker displaying a rank comparing "the emissions of global warming gases from all vehicles of the same model year sold in the state" be affixed to all vehicles. As if Detroit didn't have enough to worry about. First, if we believe that cars are causing climate change, it isn't the new ones we need to worry about. Just 10% of the country's almost 140 million privately owned cars and light-duty trucks emit more than half the auto-based pollution. Get them off the road before further micromanaging the auto market. Second, this edict comes in a state that has strenuously opposed nuclear power, the surest way to replace fossil fuel emissions in bulk. We don't envision nuclear-powered cars, but more nuclear plants would give those electric cars that California lists one and two on its Web site something to plug into while fueling America's and California's economic recovery....

Timber companies appeal lynx change

Timber industry organizations have filed an appeal of the lynx amendment to the management plan for national forests in Colorado. The Colorado Timber Industry Association joined the Intermountain Forest Association in appealing the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment, which was released in November. It would apply to all seven national forests in Colorado, including the San Juan and Rio Grande in Southwest Colorado, and the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming. The appeal, filed last month, said the amendment would have adverse effects on forest management and forest health in Colorado. "In particular, our members question the Forest Service's decision to virtually eliminate pre-commercial thinning in lodgepole pine stands in lynx habitat," Carl Spaulding, the president of the association, said in a written statement. "Lodgepole pine typically regenerates in very dense stands. Pre-commercially thinning those dense stands is a critical step in long-term forest management and in avoiding the forest conditions that have contributed to the current pine beetle epidemic."....

American Buffalo: In search of a lost icon

In 2005, Steven Rinella was one of 24 random winners of a bison permit from the Copper River herd in the foothills of Alaska 's Wrangell Mountains. Despite the odds--there's only a 2 percent chance of drawing the permit, and fewer than 20 percent of those hunters are successful--Rinella managed to kill a buffalo on a snow-covered mountainside and then raft the meat back to civilization while being trailed by grizzly bears and suffering from hypothermia. Steven Rinella's fascination with buffalo began in the late 1990s when he unearthed a buffalo skull while hiking in the Madison Range in southwest Montana. A Michigan native who grew up hunting deer and honed his skills in the Upper Peninsula, he is a serious hunter and fisherman. American Buffalo is the story of the many ways in which the buffalo has shaped our national identity. Rinella takes us across the continent in search of the buffalo’s past, present, and future: to the Bering Land Bridge, where scientists search for buffalo bones amid artifacts of the New World’s earliest human inhabitants; to buffalo jumps where Native Americans once ran buffalo over cliffs by the thousands; to the Detroit Carbon works, a “bone charcoal” plant that made fortunes in the late 1800s by turning millions of tons of buffalo bones into bone meal, black dye, and fine china; and even to an abattoir turned fashion Mecca in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, where a depressed buffalo named Black Diamond met his fate after serving as the model for the American nickel.

Lands Bill Update‏ From Senator Coburn

The Senate Majority Leader has rejected offers for an agreement to limit debate or allow amendments on the omnibus lands bill (which has grown in size by several hundred pages since last year and cost by several billion dollars). As a result, it appears that Senator Reid will schedule a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the bill on Sunday.

New summaries of the Senate lands bill are available at

The “highlights” of the bill are outlined at

Dr. Coburn filed 13 amendments this morning. Below is a description of each. As soon as amendment numbers are available, I will send those around along with more detailed summaries of each amendment.

1. No funds may be spent on the new units to the National Park Service, new National Heritage Areas, studies, new Wild and Scenic designations, or new wilderness designations authorized by this Act until the Secretary of the Interior certifies that the maintenance backlog at the Statute of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Gettysburg, Antietam, USS Arizona Memorial, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the National Mall in Washington, DC have been resolved
2. Nullify all restrictions on energy exploration and production within the bill
3. Strike provision restricting access to a major natural gas reserve in Wyoming
4. Strike $1 billion California earmark to restore 500 salmon
5. Strike $3.5 million earmark for the 450th Anniversary of St. Augustine, Florida
6. Strike $5 million earmark for botanical gardens in Hawaii and Florida
7. Strike earmark allowing for the construction of a “road to nowhere” through a national wild life refuge in Alaska
8. Strike a provision that would allow a cave institute in New Mexico to receive unlimited federal funding
9. Prohibit the use of eminent domain for any provision authorized in the bill
10. Annual report detailing total size and cost of federal property
11. Disallow the National Landscape Conservation System authorization from taking effect until an investigation by the Inspector General of the Department of Interior has been completed demonstrating that there was no criminal wrongdoing by the Department (There are allegations that the employees of the National Landscape Conservation System illegally coordinated with advocacy groups to permanently authorize the office)
12. Prohibits restrictions on hunting, fishing, and the possession or use of a weapon, trap, or net in new public lands created by this Act
13. Ensures that nothing in the Act shall prevent or obstruct the planning, construction, operation, or maintenance of a border fence or immigration enforcement

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Off-roading recommendations presented to NM lawmakers

A handful of state agencies has developed recommendations aimed at resolving conflicts with off-road vehicle users and curbing damage to cultural and natural resources across New Mexico. The agencies presented the recommendations to state legislators during a packed meeting at the State Capitol on Wednesday. The hours-long meeting drew off-roaders, land owners and environmentalists, all passionate about their right to enjoy public land. Democratic Sen. Phil Griego of San Jose said he plans to introduce legislation based on the recommendations and that developing an equitable way to manage off-road use is of great importance to New Mexico and the rest of the country. The recommendations — the result of 10 months of work — range from a hot line for reporting off-road violations to requiring off-roaders to get an added endorsement on their driver's licenses that would ensure they are educated on proper trail etiquette. The recommendations also call for the state Game and Fish Department to manage New Mexico's off-road vehicle recreation and for the state to coordinate with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management as they develop travel management plans for federal lands. Reese Fullerton, deputy secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, said he plans to meet with off-roaders to hear any concerns about the recommendations. But, he added, he thinks off-road groups will step up to help the state watch for improper off-road vehicle recreation....

Agents Have Suspect in Wolf Killing

Law enforcement agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have wrapped up their investigation of the Aug. 6 illegal killing of an endangered Mexican gray wolf and presented the results to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Nick Chavez, Albuquerque-based special agent in charge of the FWS Southwest Region law enforcement office, said Wednesday that federal agents have a suspect in the killing of the wolf. The animal's corpse was recovered Aug. 15 on private land in the Gila Hot Springs area near the Gila Cliff Dwellings after a mortality signal was emitted Aug. 6 from its radio collar, according to a federal search warrant obtained this week by the Journal. The wolf, the alpha male of the Laredo Pack, was one of seven lobos killed under suspicious circumstances in 2008 and under investigation by Fish and Wildlife. If charges are filed, the case would be the first brought against someone in New Mexico for the illegal killing of a wolf — a violation of the Endangered Species Act punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $50,000 or a civil penalty of up to $25,000....

Congress Gets an Early Start to a Banner Year for Wilderness

Congress took an important first step today towards making 2009 one of the most important years for wilderness designation in nearly two decades. Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., today introduced the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, S. 22, which includes 16 separate wilderness bills totaling more than two million acres across nine states. Once passed, this will be the largest expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System since 1994. The legislation would protect such American treasures as Oregon’s iconic Mt. Hood, California’s scenic Sierra Nevada, and ecologically significant parts of West Virginia. New wilderness would be designated in California, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Michigan, West Virginia, and Virginia. A similar lands act was blocked at the end of 2008 and the Senate adjourned without taking up the measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has committed early action on the bill this year, and the Senate could bring the bill to a vote as early as next week. Once the Senate acts, the House is expected to follow suit, and the measure could head to the President’s desk this month. Passing the omnibus lands would be a great start for wilderness in the 111th Congress — but there is much more to do. In addition to the wilderness bills already proposed in omnibus legislation, nearly two dozen other wilderness campaigns may be ready for legislation in 2009 or 2010. These efforts could add another million acres of new wilderness, making the 111th Congress one of the most productive for new wilderness designations in decades.

Key Legislation in Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009(pdf)

Rancher Versus Wolves

More than two dozen animals in Reed Point are dead after wolf attacks and one rancher is fed up. "They can have as many wolves as they want in Alaska, Canada, Yellowstone Park, but don't bring them to the Svenson ranch, they're not needed here," said Sven Svenson. He's a man who's running out of ideas and running out of ways to stop more of his animals from being killed by wolves on 10,000 acres of grazing land. "I've lost with the ones we just looked at this makes 27 head," said Svenson. "I'm sure there's stuff I haven't found yet. I won't know until I get a count in February." Svenson and his two sons have tried just about everything. "We've gone out at night and looked around and we've set up all our non-lethal decoys, the guard dogs, the flashing lights, and the scare crows and it doesn't seem to faze them any," said Eric Svenson. The family's also turned to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials and also brought in federal trappers, so far they've killed one wolf, but another remains on the loose. The family remains hopeful they can get back to business on their ranch sooner rather than later. Defenders of Wildlife are planning on reimbursing the Svensons for lost animals; however the organization is currently out of money....

Oil below $43 after 12 percent fall

Oil hovered below $43 on Thursday after tumbling 12 percent overnight, its largest percentage drop in seven years, as a U.S. government report showed crude stocks rose much more than expected in the world's top energy consumer. The market will be eyeing weekly U.S. jobless claims due later in the day, and December non-farm payroll and unemployment data on Friday, which are likely to be dismal, for further clues on future demand. U.S. crude for February delivery was up 14 cents at $42.77 a barrel by 0230 GMT, after sinking 12.3 percent to $42.63 overnight, the biggest single-day percentage loss since September 24, 2001....

Moving to Flyover Country

In the year ended June 30, 2008, 670,000 people moved between states. This is down substantially from the peak years of 2005 to 2007, when housing prices in California and its suburbs of Nevada and Arizona, Florida, the Northeast and the Northwest reached record heights never seen before. Still, despite the reduction from the most extreme bubble years, last year’s interstate migration numbers still exceeded those of 2001, 2002 and 2003 and nearly equaled 2004. Lost in the discussions of the decline has been the continuation of a seemingly inexorable secular trend: the continued migration to the “Flyover County” that many of the coastal urban elites tend to dismiss as insignificant and even unlivable. What residents of Elitia reject, millions are embracing. The new data shows a strong trend of domestic migration to Flyover Country. Between 2000 and 2008, 3,500,000 residents moved to Flyover Country. This is roughly equal to the movement of the entire population of the City of Los Angeles. Moreover, the trend has been accelerating. In the last four years, the number of people relative to the population leaving Elitia’s promised lands has increased by 60 percent....

Western history celebration will be after Stock Show parade

City kids can enjoy a bowl of campfire beans and a cowboy storyteller after the Stock Show parade Jan. 17. The annual Western Heritage Trail Drive celebration runs from noon to 4 p.m., covering two blocks between Belknap and Taylor streets in the Two City Place parking facility. The Score a Goal in the Classroom school incentive program is sponsoring the free event. "Our purpose is to educate this generation of children and their families about our rich Western heritage and its values," said Ernie Horn, executive director of Score a Goal in the Classroom. The walk-through event will cover the history of Fort Worth from 1849 to the present, Horn said, with presentations and performances by American Indians, Hispanic cowboys, Buffalo Soldiers, the Cowboys of Color, Civil War re-enactors, chuck wagon cooking teams and North Texas schoolchildren. Pam Minick of Billy Bob’s Texas will receive the Western Heritage Cowtown Legend Award, and rancher John Merrill will be honored with the Western Heritage Trail Boss Award.

Bob Lee's art came from 35 years on a ranch

Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts prepares show for beloved artist

Melissa Hubbell
Bulletin Staff Writer

Los Lunas - His name is recognized for many reasons. After all, during his short 59 years of life, Bob Lee was a college track and football legend, a third-generation state senator and a cowboy from a prominent ranching family. However, Lee is perhaps best remembered for his realistic and grand sweeping paintings of the Old West.

Bob Lee, born Aug. 13, 1933, to the prominent ranching family of Oliver M. Lee, wasn't an artistic prodigy. He didn't enter high school art competitions or get a degree in art history from a university. In fact, Lee came to art in the last half of his life, when most artists begin to give up hope of ever becoming well known.

Dubbed a "cowboy artist," Lee used a variety of ways to create the rugged Old West, including oils, gouche, pencil, pen and ink and charcoal.

His paintings are not of current day cowboys but of a time long past, with sprawling desert landscapes and herds of wild horses.

In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal entitled, "Lee's still a cowboy; he rides a canvas now," Lee said he is a Western artist because (1) he knows the art, (2) it's what he cares about and (3) its what some art buyers like to hang on their walls.

When it came to his paintings, Lee was most concerned with "getting the look right." For example, accurately painting "the way the guy sits on his horse." He thought it was important to make things look right to the people you can't fool - the real cowboys.

"It all comes down to a man and his horses," Lee told the Journal. "That's what I paint most because that's what being a cowboy is all about," he said.

Lee, who favored painting snow scenes best, said he got his ideas for his paintings from his memories of living on a ranch for the first 35 years of his life.

As a child living in Alamogordo, Lee was inspired Red Ryder, a 1940s comic book hero who was a tough cowboy.

In high school and college at the University of New Mexico, Lee briefly put Red Ryder and cowboy art behind him to focus on his athletic career, by which he was known as a legend in the college track and football world.

In both sports, Lee made the news for numerous state records, including one for a state meet 100-yard-dash. His time was a new record that stood for 19 years. In Lee's junior year at UNM, he scored 11 touchdowns and was a leader in the nation in combined punt and kickoff returns. Lee graduated in 1956 with a bachelor's degree in education.

Even after college, when Lee and his brother managed the family ranch full-time, art was never too far from his mind, even though Lee said that he thought that he would spend the rest of his life as a rancher.

During his time in the military, Lee earned his first commission on a painting.

"I painted a portrait of a little beagle for some friends while I was in the Marine Corps," Lee wrote in his biography. "I got $15 for it, and I think I was overpaid."

In 1969, at 36, Lee's art career begin to flourish. The Taos Art Gallery owner asked him if he'd be willing to show some of his work there. He agreed, and for four years, his art was shown. During that time, he sold nearly everything he had painted to them.

In 1976, Lee's wife entered him in the Saturday Evening Post's nationwide artists competition without his knowledge.

"I told her that I thought she was wasting her time because it was a cowboy subject, and the painting was smaller than the contest rules had dictated," Lee wrote in his biography. Irene entered the painting anyway and Lee won second placewhich was announced in the June 19, 1976, issue of the magazine.

In 1978, Lee presented his painting titled "The Wild Ones" to President Ronald Reagan at the Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque. In 2005, a letter was sent to Lee's widow, Irene, complete with a picture. In the picture, taken inside the private quarters of President and Mrs. Reagan at their ranch, hung Lee's painting on the wall. Twenty-seven years had passed, but Lee's painting remained in Reagan's residence.

In 1985, Lee was personally invited by the Sidney Turf Club of Sidney Australia, to paint the winning horse of the prestigious and popular horse race, Golden Slipper. Lee titled the painting, an oil-on-masonite, "Rory's Jester."

Throughout his career, Lee's work was featured in places such as the Koshare Indian Museum in La Junta, Colo., Southland and Corp. in Dallas, Texas., The Leanin' Tree Publishing Co., in Boulder Colo., the Albuquerque Museum and the Mountain Oyster Club in Tucson, Ariz. At any given time, Lee had three years worth of customers on a waiting list for paintings.

Lee believed in working on one painting at a time. Normally, an average painting could take anywhere from two days to two months for Lee for complete. If he got an idea for another painting, he'd make a quick thumbnail sketch, which he called, "a rough sketch of what I have in mind," and then go back and complete his current work.

"He portrays an era past," Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts historian, Patty Guggino, said. "He felt that ranching as he knew it was a lost art, and he wanted to portray the beauty of it."

Guggino, who was a longtime family friend of Lee's, said it wasn't only his art but his personality that made him who he was.

"He was multi-talented. A caring person and one who excelled in a great variety of endeavors," she said.

"Through the Eyes of a Cowboy," highlighting the art of Bob Lee and ranching in Valencia County, will open Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Art. It is currently in the process of being assembled.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bush to Create Three Pacific Marine Sanctuaries

President George W. Bush on Tuesday will designate three remote Pacific island areas as national monuments to protect them from energy extraction and commercial fishing in what will be the largest marine conservation effort in history. The three areas — totaling some 195,280 square miles — include the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on earth at 36,000 feet below the sea. Each location harbors unique species and some of the rarest geological formations on Earth — from the world's largest land crab to a bird that incubates its eggs in the heat of underwater volcanoes. All will be protected as national monuments — the same status afforded to statues and cultural sites — under the 1906 Antiquities Act. The law allows the government to immediately phase out commercial fishing and other extractive uses. However, recreational fishing, tourism and scientific research could still occur inside the three areas....

Nevada state BLM director going to Washington

The head of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Nevada is headed to Washington, D.C., to serve as acting agency director during the transition to the Obama administration. Ron Wenker is expected remain in the temporary post for about four months until a new director and deputy director are named. Wenker became BLM Nevada state director in October 2005. He began his career with the BLM in 1971 and has served in five states and Washington, D.C. Amy Leuders, associate Nevada state director, will serve as acting state director during Wenker's absence.

Conservation groups threaten suit over oil shale

Environmental groups are threatening to sue the federal government to block plans for commercial oil shale development on nearly 2 million acres of public land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Twelve groups sent letters to Tuesday to the Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management saying they will sue unless the potential impacts on endangered species are addressed. They argue the final plan and rules approved late last year violated federal law because the agencies didn't formally consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "They cut Fish and Wildlife Service out of it," said Melissa Thrailkill, an attorney with Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. Documents obtained by the groups under the Freedom of Information Act show that Fish and Wildlife Service biologists were concerned about "information gaps" in the BLM's environmental analysis. The biologists suggested barring leases in habitat for threatened or sensitive species, the documents show....

How much ‘old growth’ forest is left in the U.S.?

As crazy as it sounds, no one really knows how much old growth is left in America’s forested regions, mainly because various agencies and scientists have different ideas about how to define the term. Generally speaking, “old growth” refers to forests containing trees often hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years old. But even when there is agreement on a specific definition, differences in the methods used to inventory remaining stands of old growth forest can produce major discrepancies. Or so complains the National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry (NCSSF) in its recent report, “Beyond Old Growth: Older Forests in a Changing World.” In 1991, for example, the U.S. Forest Service and the nonprofit Wilderness Society each released its own inventory of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest and northern California. They both used the Forest Service’s definition based on the number, age and density of large trees per acre, the characteristics of the forest canopy, the number of dead standing trees and fallen logs and other criteria. However, because each agency used different remote sensing techniques to glean data, the Forest Service came up with 4.3 million acres of old-growth and the Wilderness Society found only two million acres. The NCSSF also studied the data, and they concluded that 3.5 million acres (or six percent) of the region’s 56.8 million acres of forest qualified as old growth–that is, largely trees over 30 inches in diameter with complex forest canopies....

Montana: Policy changes needed to help fight wildfire

The bipartisan committee endorsed about 30 legislative bill drafts, most of which don't involve increased state funding. The committee, chaired by Sen. John Cobb of Augusta, focused on prevention and shared responsibility. For example: • Senate Bill 144 provides for implementing statewide building standards for residences in the wildland-urban interface, the most costly area for fire suppression and the area with highest risk of loss to life and homes. The wildland-urban interface refers to rural or forested areas where subdivisions and other city-like development has taken place. • House Joint Resolution 7 calls on the federal government to mount "safe and aggressive initial attack on wildfires on all federal lands that have the potential to move to state or private land. ..." • Several draft bills would require insurance carriers to provide information on fire risk reduction to their customers and to offer discounts to customers in the wildland-urban interface who meet fire risk reduction standards. Another bill would offer tax credits to homeowners who take defined fire risk reduction actions....

NM: Industry questions board's authority over emissions

New Mexico utilities and energy producers think the state Legislature and the federal government should address greenhouse-gas emissions, not the state's Environmental Improvement Board. Industry representatives Monday opposed a petition that asks the board to create a statewide cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from sources such as the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants and oil or natural-gas production. They think the state board might not have the legal authority to regulate the gases that scientists link to climate change and global warming. The board has scheduled a hearing April 6 to consider arguments about its authority to regulate emissions. Pending results of that hearing, the board set an Aug. 3 date to consider the request for a statewide cap. Anyone in the state can petition the board to change regulations. The petition was filed by a 4-year-old nonprofit, New Energy Economy, headed by physician Dr. John Fogarty. The petition asks the Environmental Improvement Board to regulate global-warming pollution and set a cap to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions levels by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, similar to a recommendation from an international group of scientists, Fogarty said....

Students Startled After Deer Jump Into School

Officials at a Hamilton Township school are hoping for a return to normal Tuesday, a day after class was disrupted by two deer leaping through a window. Pastor Lance Walker of the Faith Baptist School says the deer jumped into a teacher's supply room Monday morning, startling three students and a teacher who were working on a lesson. They managed to get out and close the door, leaving the deer to trash the room. The school canceled outdoor recess for the day. By early afternoon, animal control officers showed up and tranquilized the animals so they could be taken away from the school.

Cattle group seeks concessions from packer

A Billings-based cattle group is calling on the world's largest meatpacker to surrender its Western feedlots as part of a settlement agreement with state and federal antitrust lawyers. Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund USA contends that getting Brazilian based JBS S.A. to surrender its feedlots is crucial to Montana cow-calf operations, which are faced with fewer buyers and less competition for their product. "Our position is that the market is already too highly concentrated," said Bill Bullard, R-CALF chief executive. R-CALF sued JBS last year over its would-be purchase of Kansas City, Mo.-based National Beef Packing Co. JBS has been on a two-year buying spree of U.S. meatpackers, picking up Colorado-based Swift & Co. in 2007 and Smithfield Beef Group last fall. The National Beef purchase would make JBS the largest beef packer in the United States and would trim the number of major packing companies from five to three. The governments sued JBS and National Beef last year to stop the sale. But all parties agreed in mid-December to set aside litigation and work out a settlement. The first signs of an agreement between the governments and JBS allowing the sale could come Jan. 16 at a status hearing in Chicago, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman said. JBS did not return messages left with the company Monday. Early indications were that National Beef might cut one of its packing plants out of the deal to shrink JBS's footprint in the U.S. beef industry. Bullard said R-CALF's concern is that any packing plant cut from the deal wouldn't really stimulate market competition....

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

NY Times: Is Ken Salazar Too Nice?

The word on Ken Salazar, tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to run the Interior Department, is that he is friendly, approachable, a good listener, a genial compromiser and a skillful broker of deals. That is also the rap on Ken Salazar. What the Interior Department needs right now is someone willing to bust heads when necessary and draw the line against the powerful commercial groups — developers, ranchers, oil and gas companies, the off-road vehicle industry — that have long treated the department as a public extension of their private interests. Conservationists and pretty much everyone else exhausted by the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity and deference to commercial interests have welcomed Mr. Salazar’s appointment. The Colorado Democrat has a solid voting record on issues involving wilderness and wildlife protection and can be expected to bring a strong conservation ethic to the top of the department. Yet that will not be nearly enough to reform and reinvigorate the department....

Everything's Cool

According to DailyTech blogger Michael Asher, "Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close." This isn't Asher's opinion, but fact based on data from the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center. News about growing sea ice isn't exactly what environmentalists who predicted the North Pole would be free of ice in 2008 want to hear. Al Gore and his fellow alarmists have been telling us for years that melting sea ice and glaciers will dramatically and dangerously increase sea levels. In his 2006 movie "An Inconvenient Truth," he needlessly stoked fear by claiming that global warming could cause sea levels to rise 20 feet "in the near future." It was one of three dozen misstatements made in the Oscar-winning propaganda film that was promoted as a serious scientific documentary. We would expect global warmongers to note, as Asher did, that because sea ice freely floats around the oceans, it has no effect on sea level....

N.J. enviros deeply divided over record of Obama's EPA nominee

Depending on who you ask, Lisa Jackson is either the best or worst thing that ever happened to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which she led from February 2006 to November 2008. For the most part, New Jersey's biggest environmental groups praise her work on climate change and celebrate her nomination to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But she also has a passionate and vocal group of detractors, mainly people who have worked on toxics in the state, both within the DEP and outside it. Her critics say she's a political player who has undermined science within the department. The deep divide between greens in the state has lead to some nasty finger-pointing on both sides. "When she became commissioner we had high expectations, and we thought she was going to come in and move the DEP away from being a failure and actually moving it to an organization that would be strong on the environment, strong on enforcement, exemplify leadership," said Robert Spiegel, executive director of the Edison Wetlands Association, a nonprofit based in central New Jersey. "I was sadly disappointed, as were many folks in the environmental community in New Jersey, by her performance as commissioner of the DEP."....

Timber company drops road deal with Forest Service

The nation's largest owner of timberland disclosed Monday that it will no longer pursue changes in agreements governing its use of U.S. Forest Service roads — changes that critics complained could transform forests into housing subdivisions. Critics of the proposed changes had included President-elect Barack Obama and Montana's junior senator. Changes in the agreements would benefit the public, but "given the lack of receptivity, we have decided not to go forward," Plum Creek Timber Co. Chief Executive Officer Rick Holley wrote in a letter to Missoula County, which opposed altering the agreements. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey indicated as recently as last week that the changes negotiated privately by the Forest Service and Plum Creek would become final before he leaves office when the Bush administration ends this month. Rey, a former lobbyist for the timber industry, said the company's decision is "not good news for the federal government or the public at large." He had maintained the changes secured new benefits for the government rather than for Plum Creek....

FS settles with enviro group in Idaho timber suit

The U.S. Forest Service settled a lawsuit filed by environmentalists fighting a central Idaho timber sale by agreeing to scale back logging that was meant to reduce fuels near the town of Salmon. In May, the Missoula, Mont.-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies won an order from U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge to halt the Salmon-Challis National Forest's 1,486-acre Moose Creek timber sale, which had been approved in 2006. According to a pact signed this week by both sides that resolves the litigation, work will now be limited to timber cutting in several areas that a local logger had purchased before the lawsuit was filed in 2007. The Salmon-Challis National Forest also agreed to stop logging old growth stands greater than 80 acres and apply heightened scrutiny to future commercial logging - at least until it updates the Land and Resource Management Plan it uses to manage its 4.3 million acre territory. The agency also must pay the environmental group's $23,000 legal bill....

Snowbasin withdraws backcountry-permit request

Snowbasin Resort on Monday withdrew its request for a U.S. Forest Service permit to guide backcountry skiers in out-of-bound areas around the resort, including the west face of Mount Ogden. Denzel Rowland, general manager of the resort, said such a permit isn't worth the controversy it triggered. Backcountry skiers and boarders - as well as environmentalists - had been writing to the Forest Service, opposing the permit request. Many said they feared guided recreation would impinge on their own independent recreation; others said it could lead to commercialization of the back side of Mount Ogden, above the city of Ogden. Snowbasin is on both Forest Service and land it owns on the east side of the ridge. "We'll just retract it and forget about it," said Rowland. "People are very suspicious, and there is no reason to be suspicious .. . . It doesn't really matter. It's not that important to me." Chip Sibbernsen, the Ogden district ranger for the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said it's unfortunate that one of Snowbasin's main goals - to better familiarize the resort ski patrol with backcountry routes - won't be realized....

Wolf debate lingers into new year

When it comes to wolves in the Northern Rockies, it's nearly impossible to get all interested parties to concur on anything. But if the Bush administration proceeds as planned, there could be an odd mix of groups all agreeing it's a bad idea. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have indicated they plan to remove wolves from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act -- once again -- before President George W. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20. If that happens, conservationists, Wyoming ranchers and the state of Wyoming itself could all file lawsuits against the decision. It will depend on whether the Fish and Wildlife Service follows through on a threat to rescind its approval of Wyoming's wolf management plan. If Wyoming's plan is no longer an officially approved scheme, the Bush administration could delist wolves in Montana and Idaho only -- and continue to classify the predators as an endangered species in the Cowboy State. And that would likely stir up a storm of litigation....

Brady is off-target

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is out to block the right of individuals to carry concealed weapons on national park property. That’s hardly surprising, given the Brady group’s historic fight against handguns. What is unexpected is the organization’s claim about why the ruling by the Bush administration that allows people with concealed-carry permits to bring their guns into national parks and monuments was wrong: It allegedly violates federal environmental regulations. Oh, come on. Do Brady officials think there will be so much lead flying once guns are allowed in parks and monuments that rivers and streams will be polluted? Do they really believe, as their lawsuit suggests, that concealed weapons pose a serious hazard to endangered species? We understand Brady arguing against guns in parks as a public-safety issue, but even that argument is difficult to sustain. As one of Brady’s own studies says, it’s tough to determine how many crimes have been committed by people holding legal concealed-carry permits. However, statistics from Florida, where a concealed-carry has been in place since 1987, show only a tiny percentage of permits were revoked because of a gun-related crime. Also, people with permits are legally able to carry their guns on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management property, and there hasn’t been a significant increase in crime on those lands. That’s why 50 U.S. senators, including soon-to-be Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, urged that guns be allowed in parks....

Land-auction meddler has a new plan

The University of Utah student who foiled a federal oil and gas lease auction the Friday before Christmas hopes he can buy time for Utah's scenic redrock desert - and himself - until the Bush administration is out the door. Tim DeChristopher announced Wednesday afternoon that he would pay the U.S. Bureau of Land Management $45,000 to hold the 13 lease parcels he won in a Dec. 19 sale. His aim is to fend off drilling at least until President-elect Barack Obama takes office and new officials are in charge of the federal Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management. "This would be the most effective way of ensuring we could protect the land, at least until the new administration came in," DeChristopher said. The 27-year-old economics major faces possible federal felony charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on 13 lease parcels that he admitted he had neither the intention nor the money to pay for. But since committing what he called an act of civil disobedience, DeChristopher has heard from hundreds of individuals around the country willing to chip in to keep drill rigs off the land and DeChristopher out of prison....

Sheep raisers not complaining

All in all 2008 was a decent year for Idaho sheep producers said American Sheep Industry Association Secretary/Treasurer Margaret Soulen Hinson. “The market has softened, but that’s natural given the economy. Producers felt it was a good year,” said the Weiser producer with Soulen Livestock. Throughout the year, ASI remained focused on disease-transmission issues and the legal dispute between supporters of wild sheep reintroduction into the Payette National Forest and domesticated sheep ranchers who have long accessed the land for grazing. The Payette National Forest contains ideal range conditions for the 20,000 domestic sheep that graze within the forest every year and wild sheep, which are roaming into Payette domestic grazing allotments from Hells Canyon. This year, the Forest Service barred domestic sheep from parts of the Payette that connect with bighorn habitat. A legal battle is still brewing, and what happens in Payette could set precedent for the future of the sheep ranching industry, Hinson said....

Salt Lake County pitches sweeping solar initiative

Salt Lake County is all about sunshine for lighting libraries, juicing the jail and even powering Salt Palace conventions. Trouble is, that vision for speckling government rooftops with solar panels would cost tens of millions of dollars -- money the county, quite frankly, would have difficulty raising during these particularly perilous economic times. But County Mayor Peter Corroon unveiled plans Monday to move forward anyway with the state's largest solar-power initiative and to let private enterprise pick up the tab. "It's really a way to invest in solar panels with little or no cost and conserve energy," explained Corroon at a news conference staged in front of Clark Planetarium's solar-power exhibit. Here's the strategy: The county would bid out the rooftops of more than 50 government buildings to a solar-power provider, which would install the arrays at its own cost and then sell the electricity at a fixed rate back to the county. If successful, the county could draw 25 percent to 30 percent of its energy from the sun at a cost that Chief Administrative Officer Doug Willmore described as equivalent to what the county pays now. And the county, he added, won't have to cough up an estimated $72 million for equipment and installation....

Man sentenced to jail for role in attack on forest service facility

Aaron Ellringer will spend four days in jail for trespassing on a closed forest road near Rhinelander back in July 2000. According to a federal indictment, Ellringer, 35, of Eau Claire, drove a group of people to the U.S. Forest Service facility near Rhinelander on July 19, 2000. Ellringer’s passengers are accused of conducting a middle-of-the-night attack on the facility, damaging approximately 500 research trees and, using spray paint and etching cream, permanently defacing a number of forest service vehicles with references to ELF (Earth Liberation Front). Total damage to the facility was estimated at $500,000, according to the indictment. According to the indictment, Ellringer’s codefendants Katherine Christianson and Bryan Rivera believed the Rhinelander facility was a good target for an attack because the facility was performing genetic research on trees which the group believed was harmful to the environment....

USDA Issues New Memo, But Still Plans to Register People’s Property

Liberty Ark Alert:

In September, the USDA issued a memo to animal health officials that mandated NAIS premises registration be used any time someone had any activity on their property (such as vaccinations or testing) conducted under any of the federal disease control programs. We publicized the memo in November, and a public outcry ensued. The September 22 memo is posted here.

On December 22, USDA issued a new memo posted here, that revoked its September memo. The fact that USDA felt pressured to take this step is good news! But the new memo is far from being a complete victory.

On the last two pages of the new memo, USDA still provides for mandatory premises registration any time Veterinary Services personnel conduct an “activity” related to a federal disease control program, including such activities as vaccinations, certification, or surveillance. Moreover, accredited veterinarians are still expected to provide information on their clients to the government authorities to enable the voluntary or involuntary issuance of the NAIS registration. At the very end of the document, USDA includes language indicating that a property owner might elect not to have a NAIS PIN assigned to the premises, but does not explain how that fits with the directives in the memo that “all locations” that have a disease program activity “will be identified” with a NAIS PIN.” The ultimate effect is very unclear.

So, what is the difference between the two memos? The primary difference is that the new memo is more ambiguous. We’ve seen this before: in the original NAIS documents, USDA had a clear list of reportable events. By late 2007, USDA had vague categories such as “local” versus “regional,” and “high priority” versus “low priority,” to determine what comingling events were reportable. So apparently this is USDA’s mode of operation. It puts out documents with clear provisions, and then responds to citizen protests by cloaking the next document in ambiguity, without making significant substantive changes.

The substance of this new memo is very similar to the earlier memo, including mandatory registration of citizens’ property. The main improvement appears to be that people who choose not to be registered in NAIS will not be branded with a special code in the premises database, labeling them as dissenters.

In the new memo, USDA tries to add a feel-good aspect when it re-iterates that it has a procedure for people to opt out. However, if any “activity” for a disease program has occurred on the property, the property address will remain in the NAIS database.

In other words, the new memo appears to establish the following procedure:

1. If an animal health official or a federally accredited veterinarian conducts any activity (including vaccinations and certifications) under a federal disease control program (which includes brucellosis, tuberculosis, scrapie, pseudorabies, and equine infectious anemia), your information will be submitted to the agency and your property will be registered in the NAIS database.
2. If you then ask to opt out, your personal information will be deleted, but the address of your property will remain in the database with the assigned PIN number since a “program activity” is associated with it.

The language of the memo leaves a lot of unanswered questions, including what is the role of the state authorities. USDA states that “when the State or producer, or person responsible, for the premises elects not to have a standardized PIN assigned to the premises,” a state PIN will be issued. But is this only after the property is assigned a NAIS number and its owner seeks to opt out? And will the state authorities check if the registration is voluntary or not before sending people’s information to the USDA to be placed in the NAIS database? And what “events” or “activities” will prevent people from being able to opt out and use a state PIN? The memo leaves more questions than it answers...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979

Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close. Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards. The data is being reported by the University of Illinois's Arctic Climate Research Center, and is derived from satellite observations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions. Sea ice is floating and, unlike the massive ice sheets anchored to bedrock in Greenland and Antarctica, doesn't affect ocean levels. However, due to its transient nature, sea ice responds much faster to changes in temperature or precipitation and is therefore a useful barometer of changing conditions. Earlier this year, predictions were rife that the North Pole could melt entirely in 2008. Instead, the Arctic ice saw a substantial recovery....

Grazing dustup brewing in Lode

A long-simmering dispute over grazing in high-country meadows will likely flare anew this year when the Stanislaus National Forest issues a draft plan for renewing four grazing allotments covering roughly 70,000 acres. The allotments had already been approved for renewal for 10 years, but that renewal was overturned in 2007 by the Forest Service's regional office in Vallejo. Regional foresters who considered the appeal by a coalition of environmental groups agreed with the environmentalists on two points: that the Stanislaus forest failed to adequately analyze the cumulative effects of the grazing plan on wildlife and that the forest failed to evaluate alternatives proposed by the public, including reductions in the numbers of cattle and the duration of grazing, or fencing off sensitive habitat such as wetlands to keep them from being trampled. John Buckley is executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, one of the groups that filed the appeal. While he is hopeful the new plan will have new measures to reduce the impacts of grazing, he is also frustrated that the old grazing methods have continued the past two seasons. "This year we took photos and measurements showing resource damage in scattered areas around the forest. The Forest Service mostly shrugged off those problems, saying it was in the acceptable range," Buckley said....

Ranchers oppose Yellowstone bison relocation

Ranchers are voicing concern about plans to relocate some Yellowstone Park bison to Indian reservations in Montana and Wyoming. The ranchers are worried about the animals' history of carrying brucellosis, a disease that causes domestic cows to miscarry. "There isn't anyone up here who wants it. It's a cockamamie idea, and it's an experimental deal," said John Brenden, a Scobey rancher and legislator. "I don't like anybody experimenting on us." At issue is the relocation of more than 40 bison, kept under quarantine for three years as part of an experiment to keep alive at least some of the bison migrating from Yellowstone National Park. Bison that have left the park and tested positive for brucellosis have been slaughtered in Montana to prevent the animals from coming in contact with livestock. However, the quarantined bison have tested negative for brucellosis for three years, been allowed to reproduce in captivity and are now ready for relocation. Three Indian reservations, the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck reservations in Montana and Wind River in Wyoming, have submitted proposals for acquiring the bison....

U.S. smooths away an illegal border crossing wrinkle

Smuggler's Gulch lived up to its infamous name. For a century, the narrow canyon leading into California from Mexico provided cover for cattle thieves and opium dealers, bandits and booze runners. More recently, it has hidden thousands of illegal immigrants on their journey north, sealing its place in border lore. Now, it's a fading memory. The canyon has been all but wiped off the landscape, its steep walls carved into gentle slopes, its depths filled with 35,000 truckloads of dirt as the federal government nears completion of an extensive border reinforcement project at the southwesternmost point of the United States. In 2005, the Bush administration waived state and federal environmental laws to overcome stiff opposition to the massive earth-moving effort, which entails cutting the tops off nearby hills and pushing about 1.7 million cubic yards of dirt into the gulch and neighboring Goat Canyon. Environmentalists and conservation groups fear that the project, scheduled to be completed in May, will harm the Tijuana River estuary, threaten endangered species and destroy culturally sensitive Native American sites. With construction well underway, it's clear that few of the 500 miles of new border fencing projects are transforming the environment as radically as the three miles from the Smuggler's Gulch area to the coast....

Border Fence Stops At Water's Edge

"I thought it would go all the way through the river," says John Ladd, owner of the San Jose Ranch along the San Pedro River. He was seeing this section of the border wall/fence for the first time. He was surprised it stopped and started at the water's edge. There's a 20 foot gap straddling the river. It's a very small section of the nearly 670 miles of border fence and vehicle barriers build by the Department of Homeland Security but it represents a big argument. Environmentalists had gone to court to stop the barrier from crossing the San Pedro. But the DHS chief, Michael Chertoff suspended a series of environmental laws to build it. Looking North along the river from the barrier, it's evident it allows foot traffic to continue. Water bottles and other litter float in the river about a hundred feet upstream. But ranchers say it has stopped wildlife which used to habitat the area. Ladd says he's seen two mule deer this year whereas in the past, it would be in the dozens....

Kansas producers at odds with Ag Department memo

The Agriculture Department has backed away from a memo that would have required Kansas farmers to register their premises with state and federal agencies. But a week after the USDA backed away from the mandatory requirement, the state animal health department still had not been notified. "I have not heard anything official," said George Teagarden, the state's livestock commissioner. Teagarden's office is responsible for animal diseases and welfare, as well as the premise registration program sponsored by both the state and federal government. Both programs, however, are supposed to be voluntary. When it authorized the state's registration program, the Kansas Legislature mandated it remain voluntary. In Kansas, response to the program has been lukewarm, with only about 6,000 producers registering premises out of the nearly 37,000 known to exist. Premises eligible range from locations where only a few cattle are housed, such as in the case of a 4-H program, on up to a locations where thousands are based....

NCBA names Roberts as CEO

Forest L. Roberts, who has been involved in beef products in the animal health industry for more than 15 years, has been named chief executive officer of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA), according to an announcement this weekend. Roberts, 42, succeeds Terry Stokes and will begin his new position Jan. 20 in time for this year's Annual Cattle Convention & Trade Show and NCBA's annual business meeting Jan. 28-31. Roberts grew up on a family-owned livestock operation in Uvalde, Texas, that included a retail meat market for locally grown, corn-fed beef and pork. He holds a bachelor's degree in animal science from Texas A&M University and a master's degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina. He has held several marketing and sales positions for animal health companies, beginning with Upjohn Animal Health in 1992 and then with its two successor companies, Pharmacia Animal Health and Pfizer Animal Health. He joined Elanco Animal Health in 2004, where he has been manager of the beef business. He was one of more than 70 applicants for the CEO position and one of two recommended by a producer search committee to NCBA's officers, according to the announcement....

Rambles on the frontier

In 1928, retired judge O. W. Williams of Ft. Stockton, Texas wrote down recollections of his life on the New Mexico frontier 50 years before. They provide a glimpse into the activity in two interesting mining camps: Carbonateville and Shakespeare. Williams graduated from Harvard Law School in 1876. But upon developing lung trouble, his doctor sent him to the arid Southwest to recover. Landing in Dallas, he found that place already overstocked with lawyers. So he turned his interest to mining speculation. Hearing of a new boom in Leadville, Colorado, he enlisted the company of several friends. One of the men was J. W. Bell, an ex-Texas Ranger. Commented Williams long afterward: "For Bell the fates here began to spin a thread of life with an evil ending. He was killed by Billy the Kid at the Lincoln County Courthouse two years later."...His return to New Mexico the following spring was made by lurching stagecoach, via Ft. Worth, San Angelo, Ft. Stockton and El Paso. At the latter place he stopped over briefly at an adobe hotel next to the stage corral. El Pasoans were then much excited over the approach of two railroads. Williams declares with astonishment that downtown property was selling "at the exorbitant price of $100 a lot." Continuing into New Mexico, Williams changed coaches at Mesilla for Shakespeare. The passengers were all frightened with dire warnings of Apache attack. Half way to Ft. Cummings (above present Deming), they encountered dead oxen and burned out freight wagons. A little beyond was a curious sight: stamped envelopes stuck to the tops of dry yucca stems, leading in a straight line across the desert....

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

A glance back over my shoulder

Julie Carter

Sometimes looking back can help us gain wisdom for looking ahead. Of course, Lot's wife might disagree with that, but so far, I'm still in the "gaining wisdom" phase of life.

Every year, if we are still breathing, we are gifted with this change of the calendar from the old year to a new one, from a fast-paced, crowded, busy holiday season to a quiet, chilled January with, usually, nothing overly remarkable on the calendar.

There has been a long-standing saying around this outfit about this time of year. It goes something along the lines of, "We'll just get this year over with so we can start on next year."

Putting up a new calendar with a new number seems to instill hope in the masses. It offers a new lease on life when we promise ourselves to do better, be better people and live life a little better than we did before.

Any reason for improvement is a good one, but I'm not sure why we wait until January. Could we possibly work up that much steam on a daily, weekly or monthly basis all year long? I know we don't, but I don't know why we don't.

One thought is that when we give that glance behind us in the short or long term, we tend to recall the best of what happened. Humanly, we want more of that and less of what we didn't enjoy. In natural progression, we then determine that the imminent future should be more of what felt good and produced good results.

We let the sorrows be healed by the distance placed in the marking of the days, giving credence to the saying that "time heals all things." The passing of time brings a natural erosion to the negatives.

In retrospect, this past year for me was like many that came before it. I didn't burn much daylight without a mission of accomplishment for the many tasks at hand. That's another way of saying I was busier than I thought I wanted to be, but given my talent for making an art out of laziness, it was to my benefit.

By the very nature of my chosen field, deadlines reached out and pulled the near future into my lap on a daily basis and made each week pass as if I was pulling it with a rope, reaching hand over hand and bringing it to me.

Sometimes I could dictate the outcome of those days by my decisions of accomplishment but more often, I simply had to fly by the seat of my pants and live in a reactive moment.

The lesson being, the only control I had over the moment was in my response to it.

That holds true for each of us in a world that seems to be spinning faster than we can pedal.

We have little or no control over anything except us. That brings this missive back to the discussion of the plans for the days ahead.

You know, the ones with a new year number at the end of the date. What has begun within each of us today will be seed for tomorrow - no matter what the calendar says.

May your year be blessed with all that you need and most of what you want.

It’s The Pitts

Share & Share Alike

Lee Pitts

The press release had to be someone’s idea of a sick joke. It couldn’t be true that Montana asked the state of Wyoming if they would share some of their prairie dogs with them. That would be like Colorado, Idaho or Oregon asking California to send them more of their nerds, slackers and know-it-all old hippies!

I checked out the story and it’s a fact that officials in Montana did indeed ask Wyoming Fish and Game if they would let them trap up to 100 of their prairie dogs and “translocate” them to replenish Montana’s “sparse population”. To the surprise of no one, Wyoming said that they’d be more than happy to help Montana out with their shortage of prairie rats. (Prairie “dogs” are much more closely related to rats than they are your average Poodle or Chihuahua.) The good folks in the Cowboy State, which has the highest concentration of prairie dogs of any state, must be laughing their heads off at the prospect of unloading some of their rats on Montana.

In making the magnanimous gesture the Wyoming official said, “We’re the obvious choice as a donor state.”

A donor state! That’s a good one! It makes Wyoming sound like they are donating a kidney or a liver instead of a bunch of rat/dogs.

While I’m happy for Wyoming I feel bad for residents of Montana who will soon be overrun with the darn things. But the story did give me an idea that I call “Your Fair Share”. Under my plan donor states would export their problems to other states and be rid of them! A bankrupt state like California could trap washed up movie stars, nose-ringed rappers and members of their legislature and pawn them off on a state with a sparse population of whackos: like Utah. Colorado could send a gaggle of ponytailed bicycle riders to Florida who would in turn would send blue-haired-retirees, who don’t know how to drive or vote, to Nebraska. Nevada could export their excess of hookers and blackjack dealers to states like Maine who don’t usually see such things. Massachusetts could send something they have way too much of, like members of the Kennedy family, to Kansas.

As good as all that sounds I’m quite sure that the real money will be made in sharing endangered species. After all, it really isn’t fair that the last time I looked just five states in the far west had over 500 endangered species while the entire northeast part of this country had only 39. (Isn’t it funny how so many endangered species prefer to live in the west? I wonder, is it because they are so smart? But if they are so smart, why are they endangered?)

The biggest problem I see with Wyoming sending their rat/dogs to Montana is that western states shouldn’t be inflicting their problems on other western states but should be sharing with the east instead. I’m sure that landowners in the west would be more than happy to sell some spotted owls, three legged salamanders and fairy shrimp to the original 13 colonies. In a spirit of sharing I’m almost positive that corrupt western politicians could be persuaded to sell some of their yellow billed cuckoos and suckers to Washington DC. Although I must admit, sending large-mouthed suckers and cuckoos to Washington DC is a bit redundant. It’s also not fair that rural people in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, California and other western states get to live in fear of mollycoddled bears, mountain lions and wolves. Shouldn’t people in Philadelphia and Boston get to share in the fear of having their kids and pets attacked too?

As we were all told in kindergarten, we must all share and share alike.

I know what you’re thinking: What would states like New York have to share with the rest of us? That’s easy. They currently have an excess of investment bankers, out-of-work stock brokers and corrupt CEO’s who could be sent west. After all, if we’re going to trap lions, wolves cuckoos and suckers we’ll need some bait.